SEATTLE — It would take a lot more than prominent "No Crowd Surfing" signs and a cadre of beefy security guards to keep the fans down at Papa Roach's tour-opening performance Tuesday night at the Showbox. A steady stream of triumphant, sweat-soaked rule-breakers were pulled from the outstretched arms of their fellow concertgoers and escorted back behind the barriers (and, on some second or third offenses, escorted from the venue altogether), but there was little the staff could do to keep them from returning to the front again, where lead singer Jacoby Shaddix held the capacity house rapt for nearly 90 minutes.
The Artist Formerly Known as Coby Dick began the evening with a bang, literally — striding onstage alone and pounding out a primitive congo drum rhythm with sticks set aflame. His uniformly black-clad bandmates soon followed, silently picking up their instruments and launching straight into the brawny riffs and gut-punch percussion of Lovehatetragedy track "Singular Indestructible Droid." The recent influence of Lovehate producer Brendan O'Brien was readily apparent — alongside the old Korn/Metallica/Rage and hip-hop elements of Infest, the feel of O'Brien's other, more melodic clients Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers emerged in "Time and Time Again" and "Life Is a Bullet." Those two new numbers sandwiched Infest track "Dead Cell," whose chugging guitar lines and fiercely chanted vocals sent the crowd into a fresh frenzy.
Shaddix took this momentum and turned it toward the females in the house: "Where the ladies at?" he roared. "What's up girls?" High-pitched screams were soon drowned out by the opening guitar lines of current single "She Loves Me Not," Shaddix's embittered account of his up-and-down relationship with the wife he calls, not always fondly, "my lady."
Lovehate's gentler title track brought the aggro level down for a moment, as Shaddix asked the crowd to break out their lighters for his tuneful meditation on 9/11: "The stars and the stripes/ The boys and the girls/ It's sad it took a war to bring us together/ I believe in love, I believe in forever." The prince of dysfunction believes in love? Stranger things have happened — somewhere. More expected was the following time-out for bassist Tobin Esperance, who stepped into the spotlight for a fingertip-splitting solo.
The momentum carried on through several more numbers, including the distinctive whistled kick-off of "Broken Home" and an audience-participation rendition of the smash "Last Resort." Holding up a blanket emblazoned with the name of the band's tiny central California hometown, Vacaville, Shaddix used a story of the group's humble beginnings to segue into "Born With Nothing, Die With Everything," before extolling the crowd to call their local radio stations and request it, since "the record label ain't doing sh-- to promote it." Band intros followed, with Shaddix presenting himself as "Johnny Vodka" before launching into the propulsive set closer "Between Angels and Insects."
Chants for an encore were hardly completed before the group returned to the stage with a hearty, "It's lovely to be back on the road. Happy New Year's, motherf---ers!" and the appropriately titled Lovehate album opener "M-80 (Explosive Energy Movement)," followed by "the first song you guys ever heard from us," "Infest." And as an exhausted, sated crowd shuffled out, the words from "M-80" — "I'm strong and fearless, only 'cause I got rock and roll/ I'm knee-deep in your blood, only 'cause I got rock and roll" — still echoed in the night.